My Honolulu Marathon Fun Run

I decided to run the Honolulu Marathon in late 2012 and I’m glad I followed through on the run. I stopped training and running in early November, after the NJ Trail Series 24 hour run that I completed (a race report for another day), so I wasn’t sure how I’d do on no training. I’ve had mild knee pain since my 81 mile run, which I haven’t had checked out yet. Reading other reports I knew there were three things to be aware of:

  1. The runners that stand at the start line watching the fireworks that kick off the run
  2. Diamond Head elevation
  3. The weather

The night before the race I had dinner at Auntie Pasto’s, which was delicious. If you are in Honolulu, it’s worth checking out. I’ve decided that two bottles of beer the night before the race shall serve as my pre-race “good luck” tradition. I opted for two Kona Brewing Company Longboard lagers this time. Since the race starts at 5am I needed to be up by 3:30am so that I could walk to the start with enough time to wiggle my way to the front of the start. laid out my race gear, drank my beer and off to bed I went.

The morning of the race I woke up, got dress, ate a quick snack and headed off toward the start line. My strategy for the race was simple, have fun! If I finished under 4:00 I’d be happy. I didn’t notice the humidity initially, although it wasn’t terrible overall. Florida still holds the crown in terms of humidity. The fireworks went off and some of us were off. I wasn’t as close tot he front as I wanted to be so I crossed the start line about 2:00 into the race. I ran with one of the reps for The Stick that I met at the expo. I’d see him pull up to me again around Mile 21 and I reminded him he needed to pick up the pace if he wanted to finish within his goal. There were small crowds through the first seven miles.

When we reached Diamond Head the road narrowed considerably. I decided to plow through the hill and run along the caution tape that volunteers were hold up. Hi-fiving them as a darted by was nice. For the next however many miles it was residential running, but nice to see folks out cheering, singing and playing instruments. I was able to catch sunrise early in the second half of the race, of course this was after I’d watched the front runner pass me (this is an our and back course). 21K – 1:53:39


Once the sun came up the cold sponges at aid stations REALLY came in handy. I took one at each aid station that offered them. More ‘Good Mornings’ and ‘Hellos’ to everyone I passed, including lots of police officers. I was having fun, as hard as it is for some to believe. Time ticked away and one thing I tried to do was learn the Japanese phrase I kept hearing. It reminded me of the word ‘Sabaidee’ which you hear a lot in Thailand. I later found out that is was something like ‘Gambatee.’ Anywho, back to running. Diamond Head was a little more annoying at Mile 24, but there was a bonus. A group of Hashers set up an aid station near the 40k mark, just before the downhill begins. They made sure folks knew they were doling out beer and I gratefully accepted. 2.2km left in this race, Woohoo!!!

As I neared the finish I saw a Minnie Mouse, I didn’t want to get costumed so at this point I made an effort to sprint through the finish. The only issue with that is quite a few people slow down just as they get to the clock…. Run through the clock, if you can, please! The mouse got under just before me, but that means I finished also. Second marathon completed in 3:57:08. As the volunteer handed me my finisher beads she said, “You don’t even look like you just ran a marathon. It looks like you could run another one right now.” I smiled, told her, “I just had fun” and headed to the finishers village. My knee was throbbing a tad bit, but I was able to walk on it.

Time for my 10 minute shiatsu massage and a few malasadas before spending the afternoon at Lanikai Beach. The finishers village was well organized and had a lot to offer, especially since there were only about 1,200 of us there at the time.


Overall the race was nice, as most say it could do for a little nicer view at some points, but it wasn’t terrible. The race director may want to consider making at least one seeded corral so that those who want to run the race can without having to run on dividers and such for the first few miles, the corral signs they use are completely ignored. There is no reason why people should be dodging walkers from the start gun/fireworks. I’d definitely recommend this race to anyone looking to run a destination race just don’t come in expecting a super fast course. Come to have fun!

Now to take a few weeks off and let my body recover from all this running!

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Steamtown Marathon, I Love You!

Just over six months ago I decided I needed to start base training for the Honolulu Marathon that I registered for in January. I told myself I wanted to Boston Qualify this year as well, 3:35:00 or better for my age group. As a reference point, there are lots of people that spend years trying to run a time that qualifies them for Boston. I, on the other hand, hoped to do so on my first try and with one official race completed since my high school track days, a half marathon on mostly treadmill running. This is going to go well, right? Well somewhere over the last six months I found out about this amazingly beautiful race in Scranton, PA. I registered and found myself trying to stick to a schedule I drew up on my own. It wasn’t perfect, but I enjoyed it.

Fast forward to October 13th! Two friends and I parked in a garage around the corner from the bus loading area and got ready to run the Steamtown Marathon. Since this is a point to point race we all get dropped off in Forest City, PA and then run back to Scranton, PA. Sounds like fun? It is! The ride up was pretty calm, the sun had just started to rise and I was able to get a few minutes of sleep in. The men/women bathroom designations at the start worked well, we did have a guy in the women’s line – we let him use the women’s portos even though he somehow didn’t notice he was the only male in the line. It was nice to have an indoor place to wait and the messages from the students were a nice to see. Two bathroom trips later I made it to my corral/area that had a 8min/mi pace sign held up while taking my first gel.

There was a misfire of the traditional cannon start so runners started out with the gun blast. Three seconds later the cannon went off followed by cheers as runners crossed the starting mats. Miles 1-6… From what I recall they were great. The first half mile was pretty flat and the pace moved nicely, the downhill when you turn on Dundaff St. is very steep! I shuffled down it and turned right onto Main St. There are some early birds out there to cheer and it’s nice to know that the residents support 2,000+ runners making their way through the area at 8am. I don’t wear a fancy watch and I tend to forget to hit lap at mile markers, so I just did the math in my head at each mile marker. Thank you to all the runners around me with fancy watches that beeped and rang out as we approached each mile marker. I did use Map My Run on my phone so that I could see my stats later. 7:21 – 8:00 – 7:56 – 7:16 – 7:18 – 7:22

Miles 7-15 were equally as nice. I followed the advice of a friend, almost, and just enjoyed the run. I looked around, read signs, smiled and said ‘Good Morning’ to spectators. I believe I gave out about 12 high-5’s by this point. I made an effort to high-5 anyone the had a hand out or an ‘ Official High-5 Station’ sign, even when it meant darting to the other side of the street. Thank you to everyone lining the streets here: Carondale, Archbald and Jermyn. The scenery was gorgeous!! The support was fantastic and I breezed past the 13.1 mile clock at 1:41:11. At this point I had a few minutes banked, but I was feeling great and the best felt perfect with little effort. I took a gel at mile 8 and just after 13.1. The trails began just before mile 15 and they were lovely. The major elevation drop ends around this point as well. 7:54 – 7:17 – 7:46 – 7:33 – 7:38 – 7:39 7:53 – 7:43 – 7:51

Miles 16-23 included more trains and a loop in the park. I was on cruise control at this point and simply read signs and did pace/goal time math. I began to think that not only would I run a Boston qualifying time, but I may be able to run a sub-3:30. I told myself not to get ahead of myself and reassess my goal. Just as you exit the park there is a little wooden bridge that takes you over to the last of the trail section. Enjoy it!! I personally found it very enjoyable and not hard to manage. I took my final gel around mile 20. I think there was a little hill at mile 23, I’d compare it to one of the lower loop rollers in Central Park. I did the math at mile 23. I had 6.5 minutes banked if I wanted to hit 3:33 . I could run 10 minute mile pace at this point and reach my goal and rather than risk blowing out on the major hill that was yet to come I decided to start pulling back. I was around 2:58 with 5k to go. 7:47 – 7:47 – 7:47 – 7:56 – 7:53 – 7:52 – 8:01 – 8:12

Miles 24-26.2  is where the FUN begins in this race. Yes, they are kind enough to put a couple nice hills at the end of the race. I was very nervous about these hills going into the race and asked a few people at the expo about them. I tend to run Harlem Hill in Central Park and thought they would be a lot worse, thankfully they weren’t for the most part. The major hill is the one around mile 24.3. It’s a bit steep and a has a little curve at the end where it hides a little extra. I simply leaned forward a bit, shortened by stride and powered up the sucker. Sorry for the lack of smiles there, minus a smile and wave at the hospital patients I saw just before the right turn. It reminded me of Cat Hill in Central Park. More running, the support dies out a bit around here, everyone is on the last hill and at the finish minus the beer guy at mile 25, you are awesome, my friend. I told you I was coming back for that beer, I ended up asking a friend to grab one for me! Two ‘hills down’ and one to go is what I thought. I was greeted by my friend shouting at me. I love that kinda stuff!! ‘One little hill after the light, Espinoza, you’re almost done!!’ Trudging up to the top of the hill wasn’t effortless, it was a bit long, but once I reached the stoplight at the top I could see the finish line. YES!!!! I definitely had a sub-3:30 in the bag. I picked up the  pace a little, not a powerful finish by any means, but I was happy. Stopped my watch, 3:28:11! (It matched my chip time perfectly) ::Happy dance commences:: 8:17 – 8:13 – 8:13 – I forgot to stop my phone so it’s a little off, around 8:00

If you are going to run this race, get some hill training in, get some downhill training in and get some off-road running in if you can (nothing too crazy required). There’s no need for gloves, thermals, etc. at the start, IMHO. You’re body should warm up pretty quickly and by the halfway point the temperature should be ideal.

Overall I loved the race. The organization was great. They should definitely host a conference on ‘How to Plan and Execute A Great Marathon.’ The food at the finish was top notch. I love perogies! I love my medal! I was happy with my massage by Grace in the court house lobby. The shirts were a nice touch. The volunteers were very helpful and remembered faces, a great thing! If you are a looking for  a race that makes you feel like an elite and support from perfect strangers then definitely register for the 2014 Steamtown Marathon. I can’t gush about it enough, meaning I’ve probably forgotten about 300 great things I have been thinking about the race over the past 48 hours. I love you, Steamtown Marathon!

Ultramarathon & Marathon Training During Ramadan

It’s not hard. (إن شاء الله) Well I should say it’s not impossible, but it’s certainly not easy. When presented with the most recent heatwave in NYC I was left with to options, run in the heat or not train at all. (I’m not a fan of treadmill running now that I’ve started a serious relationship with outdoor running, so that was not an option.) Over the past couple weeks I have made it a priority to run at least four times a week, even logging over 16 miles on a Sunday run.

Going into this training season I hadn’t planned to run an ultramarathon at the end of August. It just happened. Really. I did know that I would need to log miles during Ramadan in order to hit my marathon training goals. So then this ultra moseys onto my schedule and there’s no turning back. I haven’t even run a marathon yet. I keep telling myself if I can run 30-40 miles a week in the heat and without hydration I can deal with a flat ultramarathon course with a cool start and a couple hours of running in the heat with hydration.

My ultimate goal is to finish the 50k, but I have an ambitious 4:59:59 or better goal time tucked away in the back of my mind. I was under the impression that I could hit my goal time on some of my longer runs, but I’ve found it hard to hold a slow pac, even on long runs. Last weekend I completed my run at a sub-9 min ave pace of 16.55 miles (if you don’t count the 5 minutes of water breaks, traffic lights and figuring out where we were). I believe the cooler, evening conditions aided in keeping a slightly faster, conversational pace with my fellow running buddies. My goal finishing pace is 9:39 or so for the 50k. I’m hoping that I can complete my 20 mile run this weekend at that pace, but if I stay in the low nine minute range I may be in for a surprise on race day.

I feel like I’m in a grove at this point. My weeknight runs have been at 7:50-8:40 mile averages. I don’t feel drained as much, which I can likely attribute to sitting in the air conditioning for a few minutes after runs to lower my core temperature.

Some of the things that have worked for me during Ramadan race training include:

  • Listening to my body instead of trying to hit specific paces
  • Not wasting energy by making unnecessary movements
  • Wearing breathable clothing
  • Not running more than than 6-7 miles (approx. 10-11k)
  • Starting runs within two hours of sunset
  • Having at least a .5 litre bottle of cold water nearby when the sun does set
  • Starting long runs close to sunset

Every mile during my runs I try to do a tune-up check on my body. I think about my form, my breathing, any tension in my body and how my body feels overall. I feel like this has definitely helped keep me on track and keep my mind off of the fact that I cannot rehydrate like many of my fellow runners post-run. Two more weeks to appreciate the simple things like a sip of cold water after putting a hard workout.

3 Running PRs!! (And the Brooklyn Half Recap)

Well I guess the title is a little deceiving since two of my personal records are in races that I’ve run for the first time ever, but you’ve gotta start somewhere! Right? [This will likely be a long post]

After completing my first half marathon in April 2012 I told myself I’d stick to shorter distances and casual running. In the end I didn’t put much effort into running and crossed it off my calendar by December, then I registered for the Honolulu Marathon. With an ambitious goal of 3:35:00 I told myself I’d start running again to build a base in March and planned my first 5k for early April 2013. This is where the PRs started.

PR #1 – JFK Runway 5K Run (April 2013)

My goal time for this race was 25:00, factoring in the fact that I had only been back in my running shoes for three weeks, I thought it was a reasonable goal time. The course was flat and the weather was cool. The only con was the headwind that decided to pick. The entire start/finish set-up, including the clock, toppled a few minutes before the start.

Look at that kid go!

The run was nice and there weren’t too many people. I ended up finishing in 24:36, just ahead of the 9 year old that I spotted picking up speed beside me. In addition to surpassing my goal and getting to run on an active runway legally, I finished in the top 100 which was an added perk.

 

 

PR #2 – Newport 10000 (May 2013)

I read up a bit on this course and two factors in choosing to register for this race were the location and the elevation. The course was practically flat, with one small hill just before mile two. I didn’t think the turns would be much of an issue and was looking forward to the run along the boardwalk, with views on Manhattan.

Race Day arrived and the weather did not want to work with the runners. I believe the forecast mentioned a 90% chance of rain in the morning. The rain was cooling, but the Newport10k Finishpuddles that it created made a world of difference when trying to avoid potholes on this road race.The turns ended up being a slight problem only due to the fact that some were very sharp and people needed to flush themselves together along them, lest you opt for wide turns during the race.With a sub-50 goal in mind I pounded along each mile, hoping that the rain and turns weren’t hurting my times too much.

I was a little nervous when I made it to the boardwalk since it was wet and potentially slippery, at least in my head. Once I passed the mile 6 marker I knew I was basically home free. As I made the final turn a friend who had finished the race already shouted my name and ran along the side as I crossed the finish. Once chip times were posted I was a little happier, 48:49. Another friend crossed shortly after, 52:XX, on his first 10K as well. That deserves celebration!!

PR #3 – Brooklyn Half (May 2013)

The race that I didn’t plan on running had me in mind. After some very mild coaxing I decided to run the Brooklyn Half. My goal time for a half is 1:40:00, but my only goal for Brooklyn was to finish (and hopefully PR). Although I hadn’t completed any runs longer than 8-9 miles I was assured by friends that my weekly mileage would easily carry me over the finish line.

Brooklyn Half Moments

                 Brooklyn Half Moments

Thankfully a friend let me stay at her place on Grand Army Plaza, so I slept in and wandered out just after 7am with no bags to check. The corrals were filling up quite nicely by that point and the first wave had already started. I got to watch a couple speedy friends zip by the library as I walked to my corral. By the time I crossed the start line 33 minutes had elapsed. I started picking off runners early since I started in a slower corral (no offense peeps). I had also never run Prospect Park and received mixed reviews on the ‘hill’ in the park. I tried to take it a little easier until I hit the hill, just in case it turned out to feel like Harlem Hill. The hill around mile 5 wasn’t bad at all. It was a little like Cat Hill in Central Park, maybe a slightly higher grade. The downhill for the next mile was great, it was my best split (7:24).

After leaving the park I cruised, sipping a few ounces of water at each station. I made sure my legs felt fine and I didn’t feel tired after each mile marker. I did munch on jelly beans intermittently throughout the race and they kept me energized. Near mile 9 a dog ran by. He ended up crossing the finish line as well. At mile 10 I realized how good I still felt, and time was still on my side. Somewhere after mile 11 you run out of lettered streets which only means one thing: you are getting close to the finish.

The only gripe I had was the extreme narrowness of the boardwalk entrance. It would be nice if they could somehow widen it for runners. Once on the boardwalk you only have a few hundred feet to go so you have to go all out. In all it was a great run, I did PR by about 7.5 minutes (1:46:32)!!! I know I have a 1:40:00 waiting to be chipped away, but ultra/marathon training has commenced.

This year has definitely kicked off on the right foot and I’m excited for the races I have scheduled for the second half of the year.

Let’s Boston Qualify, 3:35 Marathon

=]

One More Run

Most marathoners have heard of the Boston Marathon. Not only is it the oldest annual marathon, it’s one of the toughest to qualify for. Although I would love to run the Boston Marathon, I’d be happy just to get a qualifying time. Since a qualifying time does not guarantee entrance I know that it will likely take closer to a 3:20 finish for me to score a coveted bib for the 2014 race.

I know there are other folks like me, novice runners looking for a challenge, and I that’s why I’ve decided to dedicate a blog to my running related ramblings. I’m also the type of runner that doesn’t have infinite spending money to allocate to gear and entry fees. For instance I lucked out on a pair of Asics GT-2170‘s during a Jack Rabbit holiday sale, $37! I also registered for the Honolulu Marathon during their…

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What I’m Thankful For: Three Weekends Of Aiding Hurricane Sandy Survivors

November proved to be one of the months I was most grateful for. I can’t think of a more worthwhile and gratifying way to spend a little bit of my own time than helping those that were affected by Hurricane Sandy. 20121104_085245Like thousands of others, I originally planned on volunteering at the ING NYC Marathon. Instead I headed out to Staten Island on Sunday, November 4th with a ferry full of runners and other folks looking to lend a helping hand. That day turned out to be more rewarding than I could have imagined. I was in awe of the number of people that were willing to go into a disaster zone without a second thought.

20121111_111836We didn’t come with a real plan. We didn’t want anything in return. We were simply strangers coming together to help strangers in need. I guess you could say the feeling was euphoric. I definitely wanted to share that feeling with others so for the two next weeks I went out to Far Rockaway in the same manner. Myself and the folks who joined me worked at the homes of complete strangers for as long as we could. At sunset we headed to the bus stop and waited with volunteers and locals to get off of the inlet. The commute back to the train was the low point. Even then we made the best of the 1.5 hour long bus ride, which should have only been twenty minutes.

The smiles and hugs were the only compensation that we accepted. As we lifted floor boards, ripped out drywall and pulled out waterlogged insulation we tried to make light of a 20121111_150050really tough situation. One owner joked with his wife that he didn’t want to get the floor dirty as we trudged though muck while clearing his basement. What many people fail to realize is that these were working class people who were simply living the ‘American Dream.’ For many they spent a pretty penny to move to their communities and in a matter of hours everything was turned upside down. Suddenly you are tapping into reserve funds to pay for water removal and electrical rewiring. This was the last thing on anyone’s mind since everyone was comparing this storm to Hurricane Irene, which did minimal damage to New York City.

Beyond the tears and feelings of doubt you could see the light coming back to those that lost almost everything. The people in the homes I went to were much stronger than they realized. I immediately thought of the lines:

20121111_152448Through this place of wrath and tears looms but the horror of the shade
And yet the menace of the years finds and shall find me unafraid
William Ernest Henley
You think about what you would do in a situation like this, but you never really know how you will react until you are living through this nightmare. I am grateful that I was fortunate enough to sustain no damage to my home, but I am even more grateful that I was able to provide an ounce of assistance to a few people in Staten Island and Far Rockaway during some of their darkest hours.

20121111_162332

Merry Christmas.

Los Colores De Panama

As my flight prepared to land at Tocumen Airport I got my first glimpses of the red soil and a vivid green countryside. From the landscape to the people, everything in Panama appeared to be bright and full of life.There was color everywhere and I loved it.

Even the humidity being above 80% the entire time didn’t stop me from wanting to walk everywhere and take it all in. Of course I stopped to see the Panama Canal, explore the Parque Natural Metropolitano and wander through Albrook Mall. My deeper goal was to travel off the beaten path and find those hidden treasures. One of my first finds was a graffiti park near Escuela Santa Familia in Casco Viejo. The art may not compare to the works of Banksy or Nick Walker in some books, but it is beautiful, and the Pacific Ocean along the basketball court serves as a great contrast. The colors plastered on the surfaces also liven the school that it is adjacent to.

My second find in Casco Viejo were the homes. I should specify that although I liked all of the homes in the area I found that the older homes told a story. There was a contrast that was reminiscent of the tenement buildings during the early 20th century in New York City.  The buildings and its tenants were doing everything within their power to withstand the changes around them that would eventually force them out of their homes. In Casco Viejo you see banners on the streets opposing the gentrification that is pushing out the people that have inhabited this seawall peninsula for ages. Some mention that it is somewhat unsafe in Casco Viejo at night, but it is also worth noting that the President of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, resides there. It’s just as safe as wandering around Paris, Brooklyn, Chicago, or Fes; simply use common sense.

My favorite treat was the cab ride from the Panama Canal. The driver took a shortcut through El Chorrillo, which has been documented as an impoverished neighborhood. Its history includes canal workers, Manuel Noriega, the US’  Just Cause invasion in 1989 and Roberto Duran. I stuck my cameras lens out to capture the streets  we were passing through without thinking and I’m glad that I was able to capture a part of Panama that will inevitably go through the same changes that are happening in Casco Viejo.

Cab rides for only a few dollars, ropa vieja meals for just about the same price and the Panamanian version of Walmart, El Machetazo. This city will give you a lot of bang for your buck. I equally enjoyed walking and shopping along Avenida Central in Santa Ana. If it weren’t for the humidity and lack of a winter season I would consider making Panama more of a mainstay. That and the fact that there is a clear obsession with American fast food chains, but with some effort you can find a fonda and enjoy an authentic Panamanian dish. I would recommend anyone interested in exploring Panama City to go for it, there’s more to this city than just the Panama Canal.